Research Reports Appalachia Poised For Petrochemical Renaissance

(September 5, 2017) West Virginia University (WVU)-led research has resulted in a recently released study that shows how the region around West Virginia, Pennsylvania, and Ohio can support storage facilities that are critical for attracting petrochemical and related industries to the area. “Appalachia is poised for a renaissance of the petrochemical industry due to the availability of natural gas liquids,” said Brian Anderson, director of the WVU Energy Institute. “A critical path for this rebirth is through the development of infrastructure to support the industry. The Appalachian Storage Hub study is the first step for realizing that necessary infrastructure.”
Appalachian NatGas Study UWV web

Geologic formations were studied in Pennsylvania and Ohio that could offer suitable locations for developers to build underground storages for NGLs from Marcellus and Utica wells. The research team identified and mapped all potential options for subsurface storage along the Ohio River from southwestern Pennsylvania to eastern Kentucky, and the Kanawha River in West Virginia. The researchers focused on three options for storage.

One option includes areas where the Salina F Salt is at least 100 feet thick and suitable for solution mining. Another includes areas where the Greenbrier Limestone is 1800 to 2000 feet below the surface and is at least 40 feet thick. Converting existing sandstone reservoirs in depleted gas fields and inactive gas storage fields to natural gas liquids storage is a third option.

Previously, a consortium had conducted studies of the Marcellus and Utica shale gas plays. Results from those studies have been used by both small producers such as Northeast Natural Energy and large multinationals such as ExxonMobil, and have helped fuel the region’s shale boom. The latest work was conducted by the Tri-State Coalition, a cross-border collaboration among Ohio, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia. The coalition was created under a collaborative agreement signed in 2015 by the governors’ offices of the three states.

“Recognition of the enormous opportunity for economic development based upon shale gas, including downstream manufacturing, was the motivation for the governors of West Virginia, Ohio, and Pennsylvania to agree to collaborate to maximize the opportunity,” said William Getty, Benedum Foundation president. Benedum is a charter member of the coalition. A public-private partnership, the coalition brings together workforce development organizations, academic institutions such as WVU, and economic development groups to advance the area as a “super region” for petrochemical, plastics fabrication, and advanced manufacturing jobs and investments.

“Having natural gas liquids storage capacity in the greater region is critical to fully realizing the potential of the shale gas resources found in our three states,” said David Ruppersberger, president of the Pittsburgh Regional Alliance, the economic development marketing affiliate of the Allegheny Conference. “Shell’s decision to build a world-scale petrochemical facility here is game-changing and shines a spotlight on fresh opportunities in this part of the country.”

(Published in The Weekly Propane Newsletter, Sept. 5, 2017. Subscribe at